Web Mapping @ Rowan Summer 2014

Rowan University’s Web Mapping & GIS Services course is offered again this summer! The eight-week course will run from July 1st to August 25th.

The course has been updated to reflect the latest developments in the web mapping field. Students will receive a stipend to work with Amazon Web Services and will have access to web servers to create applications using ArcGIS Server 10.2 and Geoserver 2.5.

For more information on how to register, visit Rowan’s Online Registration Page.

Quick update on student’s AWS usage

I just sent this note out to my students:

I just wanted to share with you some numbers on the entire course’s AWS usage. These numbers are for all accounts, including my account used for hosting some of the services, such as the WMS and tile cache in Week 7.

3.2TB of storage has been provisioned in EBS drives. Cost: $322.63.
9,713 hours of EC2 instances have been running. Cost: $314.06.
76,308 tiles have been served up from CloudFront. Cost: $1.88 (approximately), which includes transfer, storage, and serving.
Total bill for August, so far: $658, which includes other minor charges.

The storage cost is also very high because each of you have copied the AMIs on my account, so you could arguably divide that by 16 or more and get a number closer to what you would see if you implemented a GIS server on your own from a publicly shared AMI.

If you can generate your map tiles locally – or even on EC2, but then shut down your instance – you can host some awesome web maps for very little money. And if you want a live server running, too, it won’t break the bank.

So far, I’ve been receiving positive feedback on using a cloud computing platform for teaching server-side GIS. Except for a few hiccups related to security settings, remote desktop, and an issue with EBS drives not mounting, it’s been a good experience for everyone – myself definitely included.

Tomorrow is the start of Week 8, where the students will be presenting their final projects – a web mapping application of their own design. I will post links (and screenshots, for posterity) of the projects as they’re submitted.

Thanks again to Amazon Web Services for the Education Grant supporting this course.

GeoServer on AWS

In planning my 8 week course, I realized early on that I wanted to devote a portion of the class to cloud computing. If you’re not familiar with cloud computing, it is the ability to tap into computing resources on an as-needed basis. It’s a fairly old idea that unfortunately has been elevated to buzzword status when discussing modern computer systems. Cloud computing is worth your excitement as anyone – large organizations down to single users – can tap into cloud-based resources. Amazon Web Services, perhaps the largest, definitely the most well-known cloud computing provider, allows you to run servers on their infrastructure for only pennies per hour.

Why does this matter to you? As a GIS person, you may think that dealing with servers and creating websites are the stuff of the IT department. The trend in GIS is moving away from static maps and paper media to rich, interactive experiences provided by web-based map services. To provide the best experience – in terms of interactivity, efficiency, and aesthetics or branding – to your users, you will likely need your own GIS server. In the past, purchasing a server would take months of negotiation with IT, Purchasing, and other levels of bureaucracy within your organization. If you wanted a GIS server for a personal project, unless you are incredibly wealthy, the capital investment alone would have made your project infeasible. With cloud computing, you can get started with just a credit card, starting small and scaling your resources as needed.

I have been developing an AMI for use in the class that will have you up and running with a GIS server in a matter of minutes. This server will be configured with some common open source software that you will be able to use to host your own web maps and GIS services on Amazon’s infrastructure. GeoServer is an open source GIS server that will allow you to share your GIS data via web maps, map tiles and through KML. While this machine image does not have ArcGIS installed, there are some open desktop GIS options available. I’ve gone the open source route so that upon completion of my course, you can keep your web/GIS server running without licensing or maintenance costs. You would just need to pay Amazon for the time the server is active. For those of you that are a 100% ESRI shop, don’t worry, I will have an AMI with ArcGIS Server 10 available for some assignments. Once I have fully tested the AMI, I’ll gladly share the AMI id here.

If you’re interested in getting hands-on exposure with web maps, GIS servers and cloud computing environments, enroll in my course. Feel free to ask me any questions beforehand via Twitter or email.


Welcome to LearnWebMapping.com

Welcome! I am developing LearnWebMapping.com as a resource for you to find information about web mapping concepts, APIs, tips and tricks. I am also developing an online college course on web mapping, including a discussion of client-side mapping interfaces, GIS services, and best practices to help you build awesome map applications. You can find out more about the course offered through Rowan University Online at the About the Course link here and above.

Check back as I post articles and links to interesting web maps for inspiration and educational resources for guidance on your next project.